Access to primary care remains a challenge for 62 million Americans
A new study shows the primary care physician shortage leaves millions with inadequate access to care
By Allison Ritchie for Medical Economics
Under the Affordable Care Act, millions of Americans have obtained health insurance, but new research shows that those newly insured won’t be guaranteed access to primary care physicians.
The National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC) has released a report that shows 62 million American have no or inadequate access to primary care due to the shortage of physicians.
“Access is more than just having an insurance card. It is more than getting care in an emergency room. Access is having a regular, reliable source of quality preventive and primary health care. Unfortunately, too many uninsured – and even insured – Americans have inadequate access to primary care,” the NACHC report says.
Of that 62 million, 43% are low-income individuals and 28% live in rural areas. The majority have health insurance, but 21% are uninsured.
“Extensive evidence documents that access to primary care results in better health outcomes, reduced health disparities, and lower health care expenditures,” the report says. “Yet primary care remains off limits to many, including some with chronic illness.”
A recent report from the American Academy of Family Physicians shows that the primary care workforce needs to increase from 209,000 to about 261,000 in order to meet the growing demand. By 2025, the annual number of new family physicians would need to increase from 3,500 to 4,475.
The NACHC says community health centers are one solution to expand access. Its research shows that without these centers, 21 million more people would have limited access to primary care. It estimates that these centers save the entire health system $24 billion a year by providing care at a lower cost, and it predicts a growing need for more centers in the future.
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